Leader of Dam-Affected peoples movement, murdered

Fulgnocio Da Silva, leader of The Brazilian Movement of Dam-Affected People (MAB), is believed to have been murdered by drug traffickers. Da Silva was one of 40,000 people expelled from their homes in the dry northeast of Brazil to make way for the World Bank-funded Itaparica Dam.

(Sau Paulo) Fulgncio Manoel da Silva, a leader of the dam-affected peoples' movement in the northeast of Brazil, was shot and killed yesterday by an unknown assailant in Santa Maria da Boa Vista, in the backlands of Pernambuco state. Flown to the state capital of Recife, 800 km away, he died in a hospital there late last night. Da Silva was one of 40,000 people expelled from their homes in the dry northeast of Brazil to make way for Itaparica Dam. He told how, not long after he learned his family would lose their land to Itaparica, he met a family of beggars living under a bridge who had once made their living farming before being evicted for the dam.

This experience, he said, shocked him into organizing the Itaparica families. "The effects (of the dam) were terrible," he said, "with many farmers ending up penniless, with no land or other source of income". While the motive of his murder is still unclear, it is suspected that the killing of Da Silva was ordered by drug traffickers operating in the resettlement communities.

Earlier this year, Da Silva played a major role in preparing a complaint by people affected by Itaparica. The complaint was formally presented to the World Bank, one of the principal funders of the resettlement scheme. The dam-affected stated that even ten years after the dam's construction, they still had not been provided the promised critical irrigation water. This, they said, had led to a worsening of living conditions, and to an increase in violence and drug-dealing in the communities. The complaint charged that funds earmarked for improving resettlement conditions had been illegally diverted, and called on the Bank to take action to improve the situation. But, following intense lobbying by the Brazilian government, the Bank's Board of Directors refused to authorize an investigation.

The Brazilian Movement of Dam-Affected People (MAB), of which Fulgncio was a founder, blames his murder on the deplorable social conditions resulting from the failure of the electric company, CHESF, to adequately compensate dam oustees. "This generated the conditions which led to this type of criminality, where families plant marijuana as a means of survival". According to MAB, "Money from the World Bank never reached families of small farmers, but instead was used to irrigate drug plantations."

Glenn Switkes, of the California-based International Rivers Network says "Fulgncio was one of many leaders of dam-affected people throughout Brazil who have the courage to speak up for people whose basic rights are cast aside when large dams are planned and constructed."

Aurlio Vianna, of the Brazilian Network on Multilateral Lending Institutions, remembered Fulgncio as "a leader of rare value, who brought poetic expression to his political work by writing verses for repentistas (home-spun dialogues in music from the Brazilian northeast). Many times, he would write meeting reports in the form of verse."

In one of his poems, Fulgncio wrote "The river is our life-water. What we do with it affects the life of the people, the life of the animals, the life of the river, and the life of the waters. This is true for the world, not just for Brazil."

For more information:

Ricardo Montagner, MAB +55.54.522.1857
Aurlio Vianna, Rede Brasil +

Source: PRESS RELEASE Friday, October 17, 1997
Glenn Switkes, Director, Latin America Program,International Rivers Network,
1847 Berkeley Way, Berkeley, California 94703-1576, USA Tel. (510) 848 1155
Fax (510) 848 1008
South America: Tel/Fax: +55 65 627 1689